Brian Sims

Use of fake references leads to guilty verdict on fraud charges

ON MONDAY 23 January, Richard Mbembe-Babaku of Atherton pleaded guilty to fraud charges at Manchester Magistrates’ Court. In the wake of a prosecution case brought forward by the Security Industry Authority (SIA), Mbembe-Babaku was fined £120 and ordered to pay £250 prosecution costs as well as a victim surcharge of £34.

Mbembe-Babaku was formerly licensed by the SIA. His security officer licence was revoked by the SIA’s licensing team on 27 April last year due to two separate undeclared convictions on 30 June 2020. Mbembe-Babaku immediately lodged an appeal against the SIA’s decision. As he was unable to find legitimate referees for that appeal process, he instead elected to write two fraudulent character references in support of his appeal.

The SIA’s licensing team members were suspicious as the references used the same font and form of words. As a result, the SIA began a criminal investigation into Mbembe-Babaku. Two investigators went to the addresses of the people who had supposedly sent the character references. Residents and neighbours revealed that the named individuals didn’t live at these addresses.

During an interview that took place under caution on 21 July last year, and his second with SIA investigators, Mbembe-Babaku admitted his act of fraud and claimed that it was a market research experiment to see how to obtain an SIA licence. He owned up to inventing four references in total.

Nicola Bolton, one of the SIA’s criminal investigations managers, commented: “The significant fraud element in this case heightens the risk to the public posed by Mbembe-Babaku. He attempted to obtain his licence on appeal using trickery and deception. The SIA’s robust vetting process in reviewing his appeal, and the speedy and thorough investigation conducted by our criminal investigation team, left the defendant no option other than to enter guilty pleas due to the overwhelming case against him. He now has a criminal record and will not be able to work in the private security industry.”

Illegal security

On 25 January at Downpatrick Magistrates’ Court, Christopher Butler from Belfast pleaded guilty to five offences including providing illegal security to a bar and restaurant in Newtownards.

Two men supplied as security by Butler were also prosecuted at a separate hearing for working illegally at the same venue.

Butler, who is sole director of Strangford Security, has been referred for further proceedings under the Proceeds of Crime Act.

Edward Donnan from Newtownards also pleaded guilty to working as illegal security at the restaurant and was fined £100, required to pay £104 in court costs, £75 in prosecution costs and also a £15 victim surcharge.

In his absence, Konrad Jankowski of Newtownards was found guilty of working illegally. He was fined £350 and ordered to pay prosecution costs of £75, plus £104 court costs and a victim surcharge of £15. Jankowski was previously prosecuted in 2019 for working illegally and fined £200.

Received information

The SIA brought the cases after receiving information that unlicensed security was being provided in Newtownards. On 12 October 2019, SIA investigators conducted licensing inspections in Newtownards accompanied by Police Service of Northern Ireland officers. The investigators visited a restaurant and bar where two men were working as security.

The area manager suggested that Strangford Security had supplied the males. SIA investigators checked the restaurant’s signing-in book and confirmed that neither was properly licensed. The investigators identified Konrad Jankowski using CCTV footage supplied by the restaurant.

In November 2019, Butler’s solicitor supplied some of the information requested by SIA investigators. However, Butler failed to provide the SIA with an accurate list of his security contracts and omitted the names of the two men identified as providing illegal security to the restaurant.

SIA investigators found that Butler had supplied Donnan and Jankowski to the restaurant over an extended period. They invited the two men to an interview under caution, to which only Jankowski responded with a prepared statement.

Jenny Hart, one of the SIA’s criminal investigation managers, noted: “These prosecutions are an important development in addressing illegal security in Northern Ireland. The people of Newtownards deserve better. They should rightly expect to go out and have a good time and be protected by individuals who are suitably licensed. Jankowski and Donnan worked illegally at the restaurant and damaged its reputation by doing so. Their employer, Christopher Butler, tried to evade the regulatory regime by providing false information and failing to reveal the full extent of his criminality to the SIA. None of the men were fit and proper to hold an SIA licence and all now have criminal records.”

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